Bodybuilding training, by definition, is “cosmetic.” In a bodybuilding competition, you are judged on the way you look, not by the way you perform. Whether you use light weights or heavy weights, slow reps or fast reps, long workouts or short workouts is completely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that on the day of the contest, your physique is visually the best one onstage. This means having the perfect package of low body fat, muscular size and classical symmetry.
Bodybuilding is not aimed at increasing strength, flexibility, endurance, speed or other athletic factors as ends in themselves. In bodybuilding, these performance qualities are only sought to the extent to which they help the bodybuilder look better onstage. (Or as one functional training expert sarcastically put it, “The only athletic component bodybuilders encounter is having to walk across a stage and selectively spasm muscles to their favorite tune!”)
Functional training emerged primarily from the sports conditioning and rehabilitation world. By definition, functional training refers to a well-rounded program integrating exercises which contribute to better, more efficient and safer performance of real world activities or sports movements.
For example, functional training would help the average person develop strength that carries over into daily activities such as pulling open a heavy door, hiking up a rocky trail, starting a lawnmower, carrying a child, unloading heavy packages from the trunk of a car, or reaching up and pulling down a bulky box from an overhead shelf.
If you’re an athlete, functional training will help improve your performance: You will improve your swing, throw further, run faster or increase your vertical jump. Because functional training helps link your entire body together so it performs optimally as a cohesive unit, you’ll also decrease your chances of getting injured.
The terms “core training” and “functional training” are often used interchangeably, although core training is just one modality of functional training. Core training means doing exercises that activate the “core” muscles of the torso, neck, pelvis, lower back and abdominal area.
Basically, your core is everything except your arms and legs. Core training doesn’t just work the muscles you can see – it also works the deep muscles like the quadratus lumborum and transversus abdominus which are important in strengthening and stabilizing the lower back and torso.
The most common example of a core-training apparatus is the “stability ball,” which is used for full range abdominal work, resistance training and numerous other exercises to develop balance, stability, coordination and core strength.
Why functional training caught the eye of an “old school bodybuilder”
Functional training is old news in the sports and rehabilitation world, but it wasn’t until just a few years ago that it really came to my attention because I started seeing it catch on in a big way inside our health clubs. All of a sudden, the trainers had medicine balls, core balls, core boards, rubber tubing, stability balls, rollers and foam pads all over the place, whereas just five years ago, there wasn’t a ball to be found in the entire joint!